In praise of dead pets: an investigation into the content and function of human-style pet eulogies

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    Few socially recognised death customs are available for bereaved pet owners, who may experience adverse mental health as a result of disenfranchisement and other complications surrounding pet loss. Additionally, pet owners can experience complex grief when the death is by euthanasia. When a human loved one dies, societal infrastructures allow mourners to express loss through death rites. Such customs often include a eulogy; a traditional testimony of praise which serves a number of functions in human bereavement, allowing the mourner to celebrate the life of the deceased, publically validating their loss, and facilitating a ‘letting go’. This study assessed the value of eulogy writing as a therapeutic memorial device for bereaved pet owners. The text of 19 human-style pet eulogies, provided by professional celebrants, was investigated using inductive thematic analysis and emerging themes revealed two higher order categories; Structural Content and Emotional Content. Lower order Structural Content themes included references to ‘biographical detail’ of the pet, ‘relationships’, ‘spirituality’ and ‘death’. Lower order Emotional Content themes included the strong presence of ‘love’ and ‘joy/happiness’, as well as ‘sadness’, and ‘guilt’ around euthanasia. Similarities in content and structure were found between pet and human eulogies; praising the deceased, describing fond memories and happy times spent together. This suggests that human and pet eulogies may also share similar therapeutic benefits; allowing mourners to ‘let go’, providing validation, and a means of retaining a remembrance bond with the pet. We suggest that eulogy writing could offer a powerful tool to allow bereaved owners to process their loss within a positive framework, and recommend that supporting professionals, like veterinarians, social workers and bereavement counsellors, should consider exploring the use of eulogy writing as a coping strategy option for vulnerable bereaved clients
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)769-783
    Number of pages14
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2019


    • bereavement
    • eulogy
    • euthanasia
    • grief
    • human–animal interaction
    • pet loss


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